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Kokedama, Japanese moss balls

February 18, 2019
last modified: February 18, 2019

I was at the local garden shop on Saturday, and their newest feature were plants with the roots wrapped in a moss ball, and placed in a decorative bowl, at over $50 each, which was out of my budget. But, I thought, "I can do that." I Googled "moss ball plant", and found they are called Kokedama. Some people even hang them from fishing line, as "floating" plants. This is going to be a new obsession of mine!

I think I know what all my friends are getting this year for gifts! LOL

Has anyone else done this?

Comments (12)

  • gardengal48 (PNW Z8/9)

    I am tending one now for my sister, who is out of town :-) It is a rabbit's foot fern and requires almost daily watering! OTOH, I grow the exact same plant in a pot with potting soil and only need to water every 2-3 weeks in winter.

    Kokedama require a heavy amount of attention :-) Not at all suitable for negligent houseplant owners!!

  • T T

    I can certainly see your point, since there's no pot, just soil mix and moss. If it gets to be too much of a challenge to keep it watered, I might put it in a small bowl on top of pebbles and water (like you'd do for a plant requiring extra humidity).

  • PRO

    If you have a source, make your Kokedama balls with clay you just dig up. I actually use calcium bentonite, which is a powdered/prilled clay that turns very slimy when mixed with water. Don't use sodium bentonite - it's phytotoxic.

    Anyway - find some clay. Almost any excavation project will have tons (literally) of it laying around, and they'll likely give you what you need.

    Start with a pound of clay. Add water a little at a time and keep working it until its thick and not quite oozy. Add a cup of sphagnum peat and a cup of Turface, mix well. Form the size ball you want & plant your plant(s). I wrap mine with sphagnum moss , but first I strip some moss the likes the shade and shred it into the sphagnum. It turns the ball all green when the loose ends of the sphagnum finally rot off and die. I stopped doing them because they're such a PITN to keep over winter. I have a huge spool of hard-laid waxed linen thread that does a stellar job of holding things together, and it disappears after the moss gets a start. By using the clay, you needn't water so often.

    I have bittersweet vine bonsai, so I can make all the cuttings I want. Once they're started & pinched, they make a really cool trailing planting. I water and fertilize with a spritzer.


  • T T

    Thanks, Al! I may give it a try with actual living moss. That would be cool on it's own, even without another plant in it! I certainly have plenty of clay soils around me. For now, I came up with my own "cheat". To create the balls, I used a knee-hi stocking filled with 3:1 potting mix with Napa 8822 for extra moisture retention. I don't expect my balls to be long-lived, but it will be a simple matter to snip off the ball and repot when necessary. I'm also trying a couple with cuttings, which I will keep under a plastic bag to maintain humidity until they (hopefully) get started. I like that these pretty little balls allow me to incorporate props (bowls, candlesticks, saucers, stands) as style accents to mix in amongst all the pots!

  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)

    Al, your soil recipe sounds great. I would like to try that. Do you
    know any cheap source of Calcium Bentonite? I see them listed as health
    care products and expensive. I am sure there is an alternative since it
    has many other uses besides health related products.

    TT Kokedama is similar to Kusamono where a very shallow pot is used. I attended a workshop by Young Choe a couple of years back and really enjoyed it. I made a few under her guidance. I will post pics later since this post keeps vanishing if I insert pics.

    The containers are: first pic is piece of tufa rock and the second one is half a coconut shell.

  • T T

    TOC, beautiful! I like that the Kusamano you posted incorporate various little plants. It reminded me of a little Japanese woman who moved in next door to my suburban home many years ago. While the rest of us were planting rows of azaleas (or whatever), she created little circular gardens all around her house, composed of a variety of plants, and each little garden uniquely different...kinda like little dish gardens.

  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)

    TT: Thanks - I like to do a medley of various plants in my garden too - little patches of colors and texture interspersed with plants of various heights and colors. Young Choe, my Kusamono teacher encouraged us to find various plants, including weeds, from the yard. My plantings above includes grass, wild chives, wild strawberry, ferns. I forget the name of that white flower, it is some native flowering plant. The idea is to layer them - the taller ones in the back and the shorter ones in the front. The moss is also just dug up from various areas in the yard with natural moss growth. I also try to rescue moss from around my neighborhood and nurture them in trays.

    Kusamono are usually displayed with bonsai plants but I like them by themselves too.

  • mblan13

    TOC, I saw Young Choe's presentation at the Susquehanna Bonsai Club's meeting at "Nature's Way Nursery" in Harrisburg PA (Jim Doyle's shop)

    Very neat presentation. I have been meaning to do this, but I'm a world class procrastinator.

    She will be at MABS Spring Festival, April 12-14 2019

  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)

    She is one of the nicest teachers I have met. I also attended a workshop by Jim Doyle in 2017 organized by our local bonsai club. Another very nice teacher.

    I made a few hanging versions of rabbit foot fern. Last year I had to repot my overgrown plant in a hanging basket. Sort of like Kokedama. The plant had basically wrapped the coco-fiber basket. I had to slice out the outer layer along with the coco-fiber to take out the main plant from the basket. So I chopped the the outer layer into three parts of about 10 inches long and wrapped it into a ball with a handful of 511 packed in the center and tied it loosely with aluminum wires. Here is one of them:

    Pretty easy to care for. I probably water it once in 2 weeks or more indoors. It is in a bright porch with indirect light from Sun and other plant lights in that area. I have three of them and I wanted to mount them on a piece of deadwood I have with three branches. Never got around to that.

  • PRO

    ToC - I had talked to a guy about adding calcium bentonite to his sandy soil to increase CEC and water retention. H researched it, bought what he figured he'd need, and applied it. He bought a couple of tons (really high bulk density) and had a few bags left over, so he asked if I wanted it. I said I'll take about 5 gallons, but the handle broke off the bucket, so I ended up with about 4 gallons.

    You might be able to get a 50 lb bag at a landscaping company - hopefully they can add it to a spring order from a nearby supplier so their wouldn't be a shipping charge. Oh - hey! Maybe Source 1 landscaping - the old John Deere Landscapes! Also, you might be able to get it from a pottery or ceramics store. It's made from the same clay Turface is made from.


  • tropicofcancer (6b SW-PA)

    Thanks Al for the info. I will pursue some landscaping companies here. We do not have Source 1 as far as I can tell. But we have Site One. May be they can be helpful. I figured from reading a few things about Bentonite that it must be very similar to the clay in turface. And also probably start figuring out the pottery world as you said. I thought about it briefly just because I love watching pottery making videos. And the clay they use fits the description in some ways.

  • PRO

    It IS Site One - so sorry for the error.


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